It is about time a discourse regarding women’s labour rights began in Pakistan. The recent meeting held by HomeNet Pakistan and partners of the Gender Equity Programme to discuss the lack of consideration for women in existing labour laws is welcome, indeed. With more women becoming educated and being eligible to enter the workforce, there is a need to revise our laws to accommodate and facilitate female workers. According to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, the annual growth rate of females in the workforce is 6.5 per cent. The long drawn stereotype of men being primary breadwinners and the role of women as being one confined strictly to the household is slowly fading. There are single mothers, wives whose husbands are disabled and unable to find employment and women who have been widowed. These situations have rendered women with no choice but to find work and take on the role of being primary breadwinners. The advent of having more women in the working world engenders the need to revise labour laws to accommodate them.
As the situation currently stands in Pakistan, women are sometimes considered the lesser equal halves in practice. They are automatically assumed to be physically and mentally weaker than men and are often considered less intelligent than their male counterparts. Furthermore, there is no consideration given to the fact that nature has given women the responsibility of bearing and rearing children, a role that is physically and mentally challenging in itself. Since many labour laws were created when the country’s workforce consisted of a mostly male population, a revision is crucial.
Until our laws support women’s rights in the workforce, we cannot achieve true progress as a nation. Implementing revised labour laws would encourage more women to enter the labour force if the laws acknowledge the familial and childbearing responsibilities that most women in the Pakistani culture have to plan for in life. If we can recognise that women are an asset to the country especially if educated and ensured their rights, our country would advance towards efficiency must faster, as women would bring in many talents that men were not able to bring in the past.